Which is more difficult? Which is more rewarding? Which is more profitable?
I experienced these questions quite a bit over the two preceding years. In 2014, I worked all year on the great creative masterpiece of my life – my epic novel. It was finished in December of that year. In 2015, while doing the initial editing and research into the publishing world and market, I met with Roosh, who told me that the best way to become a successful author was to write a book addressing or solving a specific problem that people wanted answers for. Indeed, that’s how he became one. A little later, after taking some marketing lessons from Copyblogger, I knew this was indeed the best way to start.
So, inspired by my conversation with Roosh, and given my education and background which I though particularly suited for the task, I began writing Year Zero, an exploration of some of the social and political problems we face today, connecting them back to the ancient past, and with a final chapter on how we can make some necessary social changes of our own to counteract this phenomenon. I completed Year Zero also in December, but of 2015.
A friend of mine described writing nonfiction as “piecing together the pieces of a puzzle” while writing fiction as “making a puzzle that is interesting from scratch.” It was a perfect description of what you need to do with each.
I suppose the answer of “which is more difficult/rewarding?” lies within each individual, but in my opinion, writing non-fiction is more difficult. Despite Year Zero’s being around ten times shorter than my epic novel, it was harder, word for word, page for page, to write, and it must now go through the fine-tuning stage, which will be an additional challenge.
The reason I believe nonfiction is more difficult to write is, simply, you need to make sure all your ducks are in a row. You are not the only source. You need to make sure that what you’re saying is in fact…not fictional. This requires a great deal of additional reading, fact-checking, and outreach to authorities in the field that know the subject matter.
With fiction on the other hand, the only authority is you. The only source you need is you. You’ll likely find inspiration in other mediums, but the only thing you need to complete the project, fundamentally, is you.
In writing fiction, the fundamental challenge is bringing your plot to completion. How can you make it all add up? Do you pussy out with the writer’s block excuse? The key to fiction is mainly consistency. Have the consistency to follow your project through, and sometimes it seems as if the plot writes itself based on your general idea, and it turns out better than you thought.
Maybe that’s just me talking, but I’ve always had a distinct creative voice that allowed me to come up with and navigate projects easily. The only problem was consistency. With nonfiction, that creative voice gets somewhat muted, as it must yield to facts. The project itself will be a creative endeavor – a new take on an issue, for example, but an issue has existing phenomena underpinning it, while a fictional work lies solely within your own imagination.
Point being, I find it easier to bring that imagination out than in doing the meticulous research that is required for a work of nonfiction. Neither is better or worse, that’s just my take on the ease with which projects can be completed.
What I found more interesting though, was the feeling I got when I completed both works. In Gorilla Mindset, Mike Cernovich tells his readers to think back to a time of great triumph in their lives and use that emotional state to overcome present obstacles. When I completed my epic novel in 2014, I felt a feeling of grand triumph, almost like a conquering hero. Since the story is a war story, I could almost feel the same triumph and elation at the end of such a long, arduous campaign that my characters were feeling.
When I finished Year Zero however, I did not get the same feeling. I instead felt content, happy that I had completed an important work for our world, yet it was not quite the same feeling of triumph. Perhaps it was simply because it took me about six months to complete the first draft of Year Zero, when it had taken me a couple of years of hard work (with a years-long interval of minimal output) in between, but I also return to what my friend said about the two different kinds of puzzles. In Year Zero, I connect important phenomena and relay a long history, but what I write about isn’t my own making. I’m just illustrating it all from a new perspective. With my epic novel, however, I had created a powerful story entirely from scratch, albeit of course with influences. There is a certain pride that comes with completing something entirely of your own creation, and that was it.
As to what’s more profitable – nonfiction is certainly more profitable from a pure marketing standpoint. That makes sense, since, as you’ll know if you’ve looked at Copyblogger or even search engine information, people search for solutions to problems constantly. That’s a huge audience, depending on the topic you write about. With fiction, what I’ve noticed, given the success of Fifty Shades of Grey (originally self-published) is that you need to appeal to some kind of fantasy. Grey appealed to the female fantasy of being led and dominated sexually by a wealthy alpha male.
My book of course aims for higher, as a heavy theme in it is masculinity and what it means in relation to peacetime, warfare, and social relationships, and how the hero’s assertion of his masculinity effects himself and the world. This – I hope – would be appealing to men who feel alienated and confused in the androgynous, politically correct social order in which we live.
TL;DR – in nonfiction, you solve problems, and in fiction, you appeal to readers’ fantasies.
Of course, the big elephant in the room is that it’s very difficult for anyone, whether writing fiction or nonfiction, to make it – that is, to be able to quit their shitty cubicle jobs and live on book sales. Of course, most don’t do the clerical work required, either.
But that’s a topic for another time.